Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama, is remembered as one of Tibet’s greatest poets and most scandalous lovers. His love songs, still sung in the taverns of Lhasa and the yak pastures of Kham, eulogize the bittersweet conundrum of sensual desire.

That girl who’s stolen my mind
If we could be together forever
Like the joy of finding a jewel
Deep in the depths of the sea.

White teeth smiling.
Brightness of skin.
On my seat in the high lama’s row
At the quick edge of my glance
I caught her looking at me.

Doing what my lover wishes
I lose my chance for dharma.
But wandering in lonely mountain retreats
Opposes my lover’s wishes.

By drawing diagrams on the ground
The stars of space can be measured.
Though familiar with the soft flesh
Of my lover’s body
I cannot measure her depths.

When I held the jewel in hand
I didn’t know its worth.
When I lost it to another
The wind of loss howled in my chest.

If young girls never died
There would be no need to brew beer.
At such a time
This is a young man’s surest
Source of refuge.

The arrow of fortune is shot.
It strikes the target
Or buries its tip in the ground.
Since I’ve met my new lover
My heart flies after her all on its own.

Meditating, my lama’s face
Does not shine in mind.
Unbidden, my lover’s face
Again and again appears.

First, best not to see.
Then mind won’t be captivated.
Next, best not to become intimate.
Then mind won’t be trapped ….

From The Turquoise Bee: The Lovesongs of the Sixth Dalai Lama. © 1998 by Rick Fields, Brian Cutillo, and Mayumi Oda. Reprimed wirh permission of HarperSanFrancisco.

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